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Old 23rd August 2006, 08:43   #1
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Default Bucs Have No Jokes, No Excuses in State-of-the-Art Facility

Bucs Have No Jokes, No Excuses in State-of-the-Art Facility
By Mike Cobb
The Ledger


Tampa Bay Buccaneer players reported for practice Monday, walked through their long-awaited new training facility, and may have sprained a jaw muscle or two smiling over their new digs. Then they had to put their eyes back in their sockets and get back to work.

The team held its first practice Monday at its new training facility, which does not yet have a name other than the Tampa Bay Buccaneer training facility.

It's a 145,155-square-foot, with with three practice fields behind it, could probably hold the equivalent of four or five One Buc Places. The permanent structure at One Buc might fit in full inside the team's new 16,000-square-foot weight room.

"No one's going to be making fun of our facility anymore," head coach Jon Gruden said.

Along with the jokes, something else will be gone as well. Excuses.

"It gives you an opportunity to get in the training room and heal up, go in the weight room and do what you have to do, the meeting rooms are more accessible to the players," fullback Mike Alstott said. "It has everything. It is a beautiful place, and there are no excuses now."

The 14.2-acre facility is located on Martin Luther King Blvd., on the site of the old Tampa Bay Center shopping mall east of Raymond James Stadium. Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer bought the mall property for $22.8 million in 2002. The facility itself was privately financed by the Glazer family, and the total cost has not been disclosed.

Estimates have put the cost at between $30 million and $35 million. General manager Bruce Allen Monday said the team doesn't have a final tally on the cost yet.

It was built through a joint venture by Hunt Construction and Paul J. Sierra Construction.

The original plans for the facility were for it to be built on the end of Raymond James Stadium with the practice fields to be on the north side of the stadium. The city of Tampa and Hillsborough County earmarked $12 million as part of the project to build Raymond James Stadium specifically for the training facility that was supposed to be completed shortly after the stadium opened in 1998.

None of that money was used to build this facility. It's still sitting in a fund and team officials said Monday that the money might be used for some needed upgrades at the stadium. One such upgrade could be a more spacious team locker room at the stadium.

While the players and coaches moved in and went to work Monday, the facility is not completely finished yet.

Priority was given to the area that houses the players and coaches -- the locker room, weight room, training facilities and coaches offices -- in time for them to move end after training camp ended.

The non-football employees of the franchise will continue to work at One Buc Place for the next month or so while workers put the finishing touches on their work areas.

"We still have some prisoners of war over there that we're hoping to get out soon," general manager Bruce Allen said.

While the Buccaneer media guide says the facility is "the largest free-standing training structure of its kind in professional sports," that doesn't guarantee that the Bucs will play better.

"We won a world championship in the old place. We turned an organization around in the old One Buc," Alstott, who has been with the team since 1996, said. "We have everything we could possibly want (at the new facility), but it's still between the lines. We still have to go out there and play football."

In addition to the large area, the shiny new structure has 30,000 square feet of glass, 182,000 linear feet of video and data cable and 97 plasma screen TVs.

The locker room itself is 7,000 square feet, which is more than twice the size of the locker room at One Buc.

"You have to really yell across the room to get someone's attention," linebacker Derrick Brooks said Sunday after getting his first tour of the facility. "With the size of it, as men we feel that we have our space. It gives you a locker that you can have some privacy in."

The biggest advantages cited by the players are the expanded weight room, film rooms where players can study film individually any time they want, larger and more comfortable meeting rooms and state-of-the-art training and rehabilitation facilities.

"Derrick Brooks used to have to wait for (linebacker coach) Joe Barry to leave his desk to watch tape," Allen said. "Now, Derrick can go into a room and watch some video. Shelton Quarles can go into a room at the same time and watch a different video. It flows like that for all of the positions."

Regardless of the surroundings though, Brooks repeated the one thought that every player shared. It won't guarantee any more wins than One Buc Place did.

"We worked in those conditions (at One Buc Place) and we built a World Championship team because we made no excuses, we made no explanations," Brooks said. "I think that's the thing we players have to continue to do, no matter what facility we are in."
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